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RPI Scores More on Road, More at One End

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 19, 2009

TROY - It's been mentioned often, after Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute home hockey games, that the Engineers were a little tight.

"Held the sticks a little too tight," has been heard from the mouths of head coach Seth Appert and players, as well.

It's not just empty words, evidently.

Rensselaer certainly isn't a high-scoring team to be sure, but in 13 home games this season, the Engineers have totaled just 20 goals.

Conversely, they've put the puck in the net 33 times during their 12 road games. (Nine of RPI's 62 goals have come in the team's five neutral-site contests).

"I don't think we should be," Appert said when asked if the players might be tighter when playing before the home folks and more relaxed on the road.

He reiterated what he said after Saturday's 4-1 loss to Yale, that the Engineers were tight because it was Big Red Freakout! Night.

"It's (Freakout!) the big stage, the sold-out crowd, the alumni, friends, family," he said. "It's a big game for the program and the guys want to perform well for their fans, the people who care about them."

Team captain Matt Angers-Goulet was a bit surprised by the big disparity between the home and away goals totals.

"Twenty and 33," Angers-Goulet said. "I was not aware of it. I knew we'd been playing well away but I wasn't aware of the actual numbers."

"I don't know (why)," he said. "There's probably no real reason for it."

Assistant captain Seth Klerer said he would "attribute it to pure coincidence. I know I personally feel the same on the road and at home."

Freshman Alex Angers-Goulet knew the Engineers had fewer goals at home - they totaled one in each of four straight home games - but said, "I don't know why really. We should be playing better at home and getting more goals because our fans are so great."

It should be mentioned that 14 of the 33 road-game goals came in just two outings, a 7-2 rout of Brown and the wild, 7-6 overtime triumph at St. Lawrence.

"No, I can't explain that one," said sophomore winger Tyler Helfrich, who's second on the team in assists with 16. "I don't know if it's the mentality of us all being together on the road, or what."

Do the Engineers grip to sticks to hard, get more uptight and/or try to do too much at home?

"Maybe," said freshman left winger Patrick Cullen, who shares the team lead in goals with nine. "It's great to be at home, it's a big advantage but maybe some guys are."

"Well, obviously you want to play well for your fans, (so) that could be something," Helfrich said. "But that's something I don't really know. Those numbers (20 goals at home, 33 on the road), I don't want to start thinking about."

Cullen was asked if he's more relaxed on the road than he is at the Field House.

"I don't know," he said. "It's tough to say. Maybe, maybe not. I was a little nervous Saturday night, first time (Freakout! game), but on the road, you basically just go out and play for your team and you don't have a lot to worry about. At home, I think some guys maybe care about the fans (so much) -- the fans are so great here -- but maybe they're focusing too much on fans and what they think."

One-end wonders?: Want an even more startling stat? Get this. Excluding Klerer's important overtime goal against Colgate, the Engineers have scored five goals in 26 periods while shooting at Houston Field House's west goal.

At the east goal, RPI has 14 goals in just 13 periods.

That's nearly three times as many goals in half the time at the east end.

How can that happen? No one seems to know.

"That's really strange," Appert said.

"That's a funny stat, too," Klerer said, "because I think for the most part, we've been a pretty good first-period team. I don't know, once again, I think it's just coincidence."

The Engineers have been outscored only 25-20 in the first period, 38-25 in the second, and obviously, 14 of those 25 in the second have come at home.

Cullen said that, after the Engineers scored all four of their goals - his among them - in the second period of a 4-3 victory over Brown last week, he had noticed that so many more homeice goals had come in the second period, at the east end.

"Yeah, before Saturday's game, I was thinking the same thing," he said. "It's weird. I don't know why. It's something you just can't explain."

"First part of the year, our third periods certainly weren't great (RPI has been outscored 43-15 in the third)," Helfrich said, "and neither were our firsts. Second period was the period where, if we had a chance earlier in the year, that's where we gained some ground. That's another number that's surprising and interesting to know, but at the same time, we can't start focusing on only that, we have to play our game and hopefully it'll work out better."

"That's very interesting," Matt Angers-Goulet said. "No, I don't know why."

"Wow," said younger brother Alex. "Maybe we should switch benches."

Most of the RPI bench is in west-end zone and since Appert (or any coach) wants to be nearer the defensive end for the first and third periods, the Engineers choose to shoot at the other end for those periods. Switching ends isn't an option, no matter how much more successful the attack is at one end.

And it wouldn't make sense for the Engineers to switch benches, since they'd have to come out of their brand-new lockerroom and walk all the way across the ice to the bench.

"It's got nothing to do with the benches or which end we're shooting at," Appert said. "(But) no, I don't have an answer. That's weird."